Entertainment

Netflix's Spanish Thriller 'Sky High' Is a Heist Movie That Runs Out of Gas

This crime saga is already being developed into a series, but it struggles to sustain a two-hour feature.

sky high
Netflix/Vaca Films

As you scroll through the options on Netflix, it's easy to assume that the market for gritty crime series will never stop expanding. At the end of last year, Variety reported that the streaming giant had acquired the global rights to the thriller Sky High, a box office hit in Spain starring Miguel Herrán, a young actor known for his roles in Netflix shows like the mega-popular Money Heist and Elite, as a fresh-faced mechanic turned hardened thief in Madrid. The plan, as briefly outlined in the article, is to debut the movie on the platform and then later launch a series version, which would "pick up where the film drops off"—the latest example of a fine-tuned IP management system at work. 

On a big picture strategy level, this all makes sense; on a viewing level, it can be frustrating. While watching Sky High, which shouldn't be confused with the Kurt Russell kids superhero movie with the same name or the Netflix Spanish-language crime drama with the similar title of Sky Rojo, I was struck by how certain elements of the filmthe thinly drawn characters, the gestures towards authenticity, the desaturated color palette, the emphasis on money laundering and going "legit"reminded me of countless other streaming-era crime series. With its narrative shapelessness and its repetitive plotting, Sky High feels like watching a couple random episodes of a show that happened to be presented as a movie. Significant time jumps occur, particularly as the film draws to a close, but the temporal shifts barely register. 

Director Daniel Calparsoro shoots this macho saga, which follows Ángel (Herrán) as he evades the cops while pulling off a series of robberies with his friends and business associates, in a workmanlike style that emphasizes the generic over the specific. The actual heists often involve smashing a car into a storefront window, shattering glass cases, and stuffing as much jewelry in a bag as one can before the police arrive. (These aren't the flashy, elaborate jobs found in an Ocean's movie or on Netflix's recent heist hit Lupin.) Some of these sequences get skipped over or chopped up in the editing, but Calparsoro does make time for a mildly entertaining caper on a boat about midway through. Will this sudden spike in suspense be enough to recapture your attention? Probably not. 

As is often the case with these dour crime dramas, the actors find small moments to inject life into the familiar beats. The central romance between Ángel and Estrella (Carolina Yuste), which tracks them on the journey from young lovers to bitter allies, is a welcome chance for Herrán and Yuste to show off their natural charm, easygoing chemistry, and dramatic chops. A scene set at a crowded restaurant where Ángel callously reveals to Estrella he's marrying another woman, which quickly turns into a very public argument, has a pop to it that the rest of the movie simply lacks. If there's a potential benefit to a series version set in this world, it's that the performers would have more room to stretch out in scenes like this. But, after such a lackluster movie, it's hard to imagine too many viewers will be excited to stream the next chapter. 

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Dan Jackson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. He's on Twitter @danielvjackson.
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